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The Summer That Never Was

by Peter Robinson

When the long-dead body unearthed on a construction site in Peterborough, England, is identified as 14-year-old Graham Marshall, detective Alan Banks is forced to return to the landscape of his youth. The grisly discovery of Banks’s childhood friend cuts short his retreat to the simpler life of the Greek Isles, and his investigation into the crime provides the world-weary detective with an opportunity to examine what has become of his own life. Banks also gets involved in solving the more contemporary disappearance of 15-year-old Luke Armitage.

Through these parallel cases, the police (and the narrative) probe why adolescent boys run away or become prey to abductors. Banks discovers that the reasons have changed surprisingly little in three decades and apply equally to the cool and popular Graham as well as the lonely but precociously talented Luke. Banks must also reveal one of his own most closely guarded secrets – the evidence he withheld as a boy during the initial police investigation into Graham’s disappearance.

The novel not only mourns for lost youth and the passing of the 1960s (indelibly marked for young Alan and Graham by the music of the Beatles and the advent of space travel), it questions the notion that we can really know the people closest to us. Banks is forced to emotionally confront the physical disappearance of his childhood friend (first alluded to in Cold is the Grave) and let go of the illusion of their intimacy. In giving us this fully fleshed out and flawed hero – and a gripping, complex story – Robinson demonstrates why he is a master of the police procedural.